Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
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The new Southern Regional Laboratory (SRL), serving Districts 7, 8 and 12, opened this month in Fontana.

Bigger, Better Materials Lab Opens in Fontana
by  Kelly Markham
Issue Date: 11/2011

[Click on photos to enlarge and read captions.]

District 7 materials has a new home … with some new roommates: Districts 8 and 12.

Caltrans has completed construction on its new Southern Regional Laboratory (SRL) in Fontana, which handles materials testing for Districts 7, 8 and 12. Moving into the new multimillion dollar facility – no small feat – began in July. All equipment was in place, calibrated and fully functional by October 3.

“Consolidating the labs means we can work more efficiently and enhance project delivery,” said Southern Regional Laboratory Office Chief Godson Anyanwu. “We used to have people doing the same work in different locations. Now we have all the expertise and equipment in one place.”

The SRL plays a critical role in Caltrans’ mission – it’s where all the testing is done on materials used in Caltrans projects, everything from hot mix asphalt to the concrete blocks that make up sound walls. The testing that goes on at the lab ensures that construction materials meet specifications.

In addition to the lab itself, the SRL has a separate building that houses the Independent Assurance (IA) Unit. In a nutshell, IA tests the testers to ensure that Caltrans labs, equipment and staff (and private labs’ equipment and personnel who work on state projects) meet state standards. Participation in an IA program is required for projects that receive federal funding.

The Southern Regional Lab is a big improvement over the old District 7 Materials Lab located on South Maple Street in Los Angeles. The new facility is about 70,000 square feet, while the old lab, which had been in use for more than four decades, was 15,000 square feet.

Another improvement: The SRL has expanded testing capabilities. Some of the tests that previously had to be done in Sacramento – such as structural steel testing, binder testing and PCC mix design – can now be performed in Fontana. Performing tests in Southern California rather than shipping materials almost 400 miles away allows construction to proceed more quickly because there’s not as much waiting around for test results.

“The new lab is more efficient, has more space, and is a great place to work,” said Anyanwu. “Moving everything was a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

Currently, about 28 people work at the SRL, which includes IA staff. When the facility is fully staffed, that number will increase to about 35.

 

Godson Anyanwu, Southern Regional Laboratory Office Chief The SRL is where all the testing is done on materials used in Caltrans projects, everything from hot mix asphalt to the concrete blocks that make up sound walls. Splitting aggregate samples for testing. Calibrating equipment to be used in Portland cement concrete (PCC) testing.